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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Devils at work?

At Morning Prayer today one of the readings, from Ephesians, includes the famous "put on the armor of Christ" line. It goes on to discuss our conflictual situation with principalities and powers in this present darkness. That last phrase was the title of a novel on spiritual warfare written many years ago. It was an attempt, from a particular type of Christian perspective, to illustrate what the unseen realms of angels and demons.

The idea that we live in "this present darkness" is a popular idea in traditional Christianity. In such a view we are "fallen humanity" and sin and death are powerful agents of evil. In contemporary society and "Liberal/Progressive" manifestations of Christianity, darkness is more a function of prejudice or unenlightened thinking. In many cases, the Progressive would seem to say that the only darkness is the cloudy presence of the out-of-touch Christian and his/her outdated world view.

It is hard, in a world of technology and materialism (philosophically), to not fall prey to a certain one dimensionality to it all. "What you see is what you get." "The real is the tangible." Who needs a devil when we have human evil, nature and meaningless coincidence to blame for everything? And the ever ready explanations of some devil believers do seem to be naively simplistic at times (and flat out wrong at others). After all, the psychological process of projection is obvious and blaming 'the devil' can sometimes be little more than a theological version of projection...

On the other hand, what if it is true? What if there really are spiritual forces at work on us (and through us) to undo the goodness and beauty of the world and mar the relationships of humans? What if there are times when an unseen force is at work (demonic) which is interacting with our mind and generating real temptations? What if life is warfare and "what you see" is complemented by "what you don't see"; so that "what you get" is a more mysteriously arrived at process?

There was a time when not being able to explain how unseen forces were at work seemed an embarrassing admission that my traditional faith about the demonic was simplistic and misguided. But the longer I am around the more I realize there are so many things that I cannot explain. [like typing these keys and pushing a button allows these musings to be accessed around the world instantly] I cannot explain personalities, the unconscious or social pressures without pointing to 'invisible' realms. Our world is full of things that we cannot see (radio waves, magnetism and electricity) which are real. Our world is full of physical phenomena which physicists readily acknowledge are beyond human understanding. Enough for me....

The problem is, if we fail to see the present darkness is a time of spiritual warfare, we may be simply taken captive by other forces. Nothing so glamorous as a full blown Hollywood possession, actually something much more mundane and more sinister. So the admonition to put on the full armor of Christ is no less pressing today than it was in the First Century. It just may be a bit more difficult because we have a harder time conceiving.

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